The BRICS Summit in Goa was a notable success for India and Russia, contradicting the Jeremiahs prognosticating the collapse of the Indo-Russian special relationship, This was not to be, and was never remotely on the cards (See page 3)
Another landmark for Indian diplomacy was the parallel presence at Goa of a grouping of nations known by the acronym BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sector Technical and Economic Corporation). These countries include Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, pivoted around India, all seeking to interact with the members of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) on the mutually beneficial issues of trade, investment and technical cooperation. While SAARC wanes, BIMSTEC waxes.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stature as an international statesman rises by the day. He has rightly made jihadi terrorism the theme of his major speeches in multilateral forums for reasons that are self-evident. Mr Modi declared against Pakistan as the ‘mother-ship of terror,’ China took umbrage, announcing that no country, ethnic group or religion should be made synonymous with terrorism. The Chinese spokesman’s words should be a reminder to the Indian public of the limits of Sino-Indian relations, of China’s cloven hoof concealed in the velvet glove of platitudes and sweet nothings.
BSF kill seven provocateurs
India’s Border Security Force shot dead seven Pakistan Rangers along the Line of Control in Kashmir. It was in retaliation for a Rangers’ sniper attack, which injured an Indian trooper. The response was swift and telling. India’s has raised the stakes. (Hindu, Times of India October 22)
Pakistan is useful to China not because of its human capital or economic riches, but because its proximity to terror groups it uses as instruments of high policy against India. This bitter pill must be swallowed, however reluctantly, in the interest of India’s survival. The minatory and scornful tone of Beijing-based corporate lawyer, possibly cover for government official, Kai Xue, in which he likens India to ‘an overconfident hare in a premature sprint for glory before exhaustion leaves him in the dust of the steady tortoise,’ which, evidently, is China. (Edit page, Times of India, October 18)
India completes nuclear triad
India has quietly commissioned its first operational nuclear powered submarine, INS Arihant, which is equipped with underwater ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads in August. The commissioning ceremony was performed by Navy Chief, Admiral Sunil Lamba. With the Army and Air Force already equipped with nuclear-weapon delivery systems, India’s deterrent triad, and second strike capability, is now complete. India has a no first-use policy. A second nuclear powered submarine, INS Aridhaman, is on the verge of completion (Hindu, Times of India October 18)
Russian sub for India
A couple of days after the BRICS Summit was concluded, Alexei Nikolski, a correspondent of the Russian paper Vedomosti, reported that India and Russia had clinched a $2 billion deal for the 10-year lease of a second Akula II attack Russian submarine to India, following talks between Prime Minister Modi and President Putin on the sidelines of the Summit in Goa. In April 2012, the lease for the first such submarine was reached for training purposes for Indian sub-mariners. This is in line for India’s long-term goal for a large fleet of nuclear-powered submarines as part of its triad deterrent. An Indian delegation had visited Moscow in September to negotiate this transfer (Hindu October 20). See also page 3
Eyes in the sky guided strikes
Up in the sky, 526 km high, were a number of ISRO satellites guiding India’s recent strikes across the Line of Control in Kashmir. India is on the fast track to developing a significant capability called ‘C4ISR’ or ‘command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.’ India’s Aerospace Command is manned by experts with the desired understanding of implementing surgical strikes. Along with tracking jihadi terrorist movements in real time, ISRO’s world-class capabilities allow India to give out accurate navigation signals – a Herculean endeavour overseen by ISRO’s 17,000 sophisticated workforce.
Today, India has 33 satellites in earth orbit and one in Mars orbit. These include 12 communications satellites; seven navigation satellites and 10 earth observation satellites and four weather monitoring satellites in the Asia Pacific region. ISR Chairman Kiran Kumar said: ‘The Indian space agency will not be found lacking in helping secure India’s national interests now and in future.’ (Report, Kunal Anand, former Director, Technology, BBC Worldwide, currently Managing Director of his own California-based company specializing in military space activity. Refer website)
India and Russia are set jointly to develop a miniature BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. A new version of the missile will be its first upscale, and is designed to be a game-changer. It will be portable weapon with only three men to operate it. Talks on the project lasted several months and have now been concluded. The larger version of the 290 km-range, Mach 3, BrahMos is already in service with the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force. India and Russia are planning to extend the range of the missile from the present 290 km to over 600 km. Plans are also afoot to increase their speed to hypersonic levels (Economic Times October 14, 20)
Kamath optimistic on BRICS’ lending
A year and more after K.V. Kamath’s appointment as President of the New Development Bank of BRICS, he submitted a report card to recent BRICS Summit in Goa. In an interview with the press, he said the first target of the bank was to establish a loan-disbursement figure. It proved difficult to achieve, but in the end the target was achieved. ‘So we start the second year on a firm foundation with the ability to look for more growth. So far this year, we have done $900 million of lending…For the coming calendar year, we are looking at $2.5 billion lending,’ he said. Kamath, a former director of ICICI Bank in India, is one of the most respected names in Indian banking. He told his interlocutor that he was ‘very bullish’ about the direction of Indian economy (Mint October 17)
Indian to lead $100bn SoftBank tech project
Japanese telecom and internet giant SoftBank’s founder Masayoshi Son, who has been betting big on India, took a further bet appointing Rajeev Misra, currently head of its strategic finance, to lead the SoftBank Vision Fund, launched in partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to spot companies that the partners believe will become big players of the future. Misra has a Master’s in computer science from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management. He also holds a BTech in Mechanical Engineering from IIT-Delhi.
SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, said: ‘Over the next decade, the SoftBank Vision Fund will be the biggest investor in the technology sector. We will further accelerate the information revolution by contributing to its development.’ (Times of India October 18)
India the place for Sovereign funds
With global volatility in commodity markets, sovereign wealth funds have turned to India as the place to be. The value of the Indian stocks held by these investors has risen 32 per cent in the first eight months of 2016. Some of the world’s largest funds, such as Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global, the Singapore Government’s Investment Corporation and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority hold a a big pie of the listed Indian stocks. ‘With 36 completed deals, India wins the prize for the most attractive target country of 2015 by number of operations…the broad diversification of investments across sectors is a definite sign of economic vitality,’ said a report of the Sovereign Investment Lab (Business Line October 17)
Rosneft deal is Essar’s lifeline
Debt-ridden Ruia-owned Essar Energy Group, needed money badly and Russia’s state-owned Rosneft company wanted access to a large oil market in the world’s fastest-growing, hence a deal was struck on the critical convergence of interests. Significantly, the signatures to the $12.9 billion deal ((the highest ever FDI inflow into India) were affixed in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin at the bilateral Indo-Russian meeting at Goa on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit.
This is a subtle but clear message from both countries to the United States and world on the US-EU sanctions regime targeting Russia. The deal also involves third parties, which skirts the sanctions. BP is an indirect entry since it has a 19 per cent stake in Rosneft. Essar will be able to make a substantial reduction in its burgeoning debt, while the Russian buyer will look to build a modern network of retail outlets across India, which in turn will shake up the Indian refining and sector: stymied for decades and crying out modern technology and global retail practices. Narendra Taneja, an Indian energy expert, ‘It will change the image of India as an investment destination in oil refining and retail. Saudi Aramco, Chevron and Kuwait Petroleum may want to enter soon, most likely in partnership with Indian oil PSUs’ (Public Sector Undertakings). (Business Line October 17)